The Sawkill Creek - Exploiting The Sawkill’s Resources

The Sawkill Creek

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Exploiting The Sawkill’s Resources

Hudson Valley creeks and rivers are sources of food and water that attract animals and create travel corridors.

For thousands of years prior to European settlement, native people used these watery pathways for transportation and to hunt and fish. During the 17th and 18th centuries, colonists relied on the food supply available in and near these streams as well.

Europeans valued another aspect of the Sawkill and its sister Hudson River tributaries--the ability to power mills. As its name suggests, this kill, the Dutch word for creek, provided energy for sawmills as well as gristmills.

With its three sets of falls, the Sawkill generated interest among local landowners early in the 18th century. In fact, colonial speculators bought water rights along the Sawkill well before there was any appreciable development on its banks. Various relatives of Janet Livingston Montgomery, the creator of Montgomery Place, established mills along the Sawkill. Most of this activity occurred during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Map of the Town of Rhinebeck in the County of Dutchess (detail), by Alexander Thompson. Ink and watercolor on paper, 1797-1798. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

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